When the body is under stress, the individual has poor immunity, or in some cases for unknown reasons, the virus reactivates resulting in shingles. Most people never know exactly why the virus was reactivated, but everyone who has ever had chickenpox can develop shingles at any time. There are an estimated one million cases of shingles every year in the United States alone with those being 60 years old and above at most risk.
Shingle is an acute or sudden onset of a viral inflammation that is characterized by very painful blisters that typically appear on one side of the body, in a linear distribution on the skin following the nerve pathways.
Shingle is caused by the reactivation of a previous infection with the varicella-zoster virus (chickenpox). It is a herpes virus infection (herpes zoster) and it usually affects a nerve, which can cause excruciating pain in one area of the body and is marked by a painful eruption of blisters usually on one side of the body along the course of one or more of the cutaneous nerves that affect the skin.
The first sign of shingle is often a severe burning or tingling pain, or sometimes even a numbness or itch like a spider or some other type of poisonous insect bite. This happens on only one side of the body, but the blisters can be in multiple locations. A rash of fluid-filled, blisters, similar to chickenpox, can appear in a matter of hours or after several days or a week.
The pain from Shingles can be mild or very intense, almost debilitating. Some people can experience mostly itching; others feel pain from even the gentlest touch or breeze. Wearing clothes or even lying in bed with a sheet over you can be horribly painful. The most common Iocation where shingles occur is a band that spans one side of the body around the waistline, but only on one side.
The condition is very contagious. It can be spread from an affected person to both children and adults who have never had chickenpox. Instead of actually developing shingles, these children or adults will develop chickenpox, but once they have had chickenpox, they cannot catch shingles or contract the virus from someone else. However, once you have been infected, you do have the potential to develop shingles later in your life.
Doctors are able to distinguish shingles from chickenpox or any of the other numerous skin conditions by the way the spots or blisters are distributed. Since shingles always occurs in an area of the skin supplied by the sensory fibers of a single nerve, the rash or blisters will usually appear in well-defined bands on one side of the body, usually the torso, but can also appear on one side of the face, around the nose and eyes and in the groin.
The symptoms associated with shingles vary widely from patient to patient. Most patients report a burning feeling or tingling of the skin before there is any evidence of a rash. The pain is often severe, yet there may not be any rash to see or feel, which can be quite frustrating. The rash will usually appear first as a few small blisters on red skin, and then new blisters will form anywhere from three to five days. The blisters usually appear in areas that correspond to nerves, in a ray-like pattern on the skin. An entire nerve may or may not be affected. Some people have just one nerve affected while others have several nerves or several layers of nerves affected. Some people experience intense pain that lasts for weeks and others experience only mild discomfort. The pain is usually greater for those who have more nerve space involved, although it is possible to have the pain without any blisters developing.
Eventually, the blisters will begin to pop and then ooze. The blisters will then crust and heal over. The time from the onset of symptoms until the blisters are healed is different for each patient, but may take two weeks to a month to heal completely. Shingles are contagious and are often spread from person to person, causing both shingles and chickenpox, in those who have not had it before. Shingles will continue to be contagious as long as there are new blisters forming and old blisters that have not completely healed. Once all of the blisters have crusted over and there are no new blisters forming, it is safe to come into contact with those who have not had the virus.
TREATMENT FOR SHINGLES
The truth is that the term “cure” may be a little too strong, to use. Experts say that there is no real absolute cure for shingles. There is, however, no need to despair because they can be treated and controlled. Medication can reduce the pain and cut the length of time that a person has shingles. Studies also show that even though there is no cure for shingles, treatment can limit a person’s chances of suffering from complications like postherpetic neuralgia and blindness. Anti-viral cannot be seen as shingles cure because it cannot properly kill the virus. Proper medication, however, will step up the crusting and healing of shingles blisters by a number of days. Doctors usually prescribe anti-viral medication combined with other pain-relieving medications.
The available treatments will hopefully lessen the duration of a shingles outbreak and to control the intense pain. Using a medicated lotion, such as Benadryl or Caladryl on the actual blisters might help to reduce the pain and itching. Using a cool compress that is soaked in an astringent liquid on the blisters and sores might help to make them hurt or itch less.
To help you with getting some relief from the pain of shingles, your doctor might have you take Tylenol or ibuprofen, antihistamines pills and lotions) to help ease the itching and burning.
New Vaccines have been developed and can help reduce the risk of getting shingles. Getting early treatment can help shorten your battle with a shingles infection and minimize the chance of complications. If your bout with shingles causes severe pain, your doctor might order a prescription pain medicine.
To help you feel better faster, you must take care of any skin sores by keeping them clean. Take any and all of your medicines as directed. And use doctor or pharmacist recommended over-the-counter medicines to relieve pain and itching.
While you have shingles, you can spread chickenpox to people who have never had chickenpox, so you need to avoid contact with people until the rash heals and be extra careful to avoid people who may have weak immune systems and pregnant women and babies who have never had chickenpox.
ln order for the treatment to be effective, it must be administered as soon as the disease is detected. It is recommended that medical assistance is sought within 48-72 hours after the first signs of shingles emerge. The first signs are usually pain and some rashes.
Immunization used to be the only solution to reduce the risk of chickenpox. Recently, researchers have come up with a solution not as a cure but as a way of preventing it in people over 60 who have had chickenpox but not shingles. Results of a study show that a new vaccine may reduce the incidence of shingles in the elderly and works best in people who are 60 and above but not over 69. Nonetheless, the vaccine did not prevent 1″00% in all the participants of the study. Science is still far from discovering a real effective cure for shingles.
Although shingles can’t be spread by just mere contact, the virus can spread to individuals who have never had chickenpox or have not been vaccinated through direct contact with the blisters. There is need to avoid direct contact with infants, children, and pregnant women. A poor immune system is enough to trigger shingles. Although a good and healthy lifestyle doesn’t directly prevent shingles, it can strengthen the body’s immune system against the disease. Reduce smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and stress levels since stress can affect your immune system. Balanced diet and exercises are recommended.
As shingle is a virus the best natural defense is a healthy immune system. A healthy diet, plenty of exercise and avoidance of toxins is the best way to improve your immune system and prevent shingles. It is also a possibility that the chickenpox vaccine has contributed to the incidence of shingles in people over 60.
WHAT DO SHINGLES LOOK LIKE?
Shingle is a symptom caused by a virus. Both the symptoms and the virus itself are referred to by a variety of other names: herpes zoster, VZV, Zona, Acute Posterior Ganglionitis to name a few.
It is caused by the same virus that causes varicella, which is also known as chickenpox. Chickenpox is the acute phase of the invasion of the varicella-zoster virus, and zoster, or shingles, is a reactivation of the latent phase of the virus. ln other words, the chickenpox virus (also called varicella virus) can lie dormant in your body for many years. Thus you could have had chickenpox as a child but not develop symptoms of shingles until older adulthood. ln fact, although they can occur at any age, most shingles outbreaks occur after age 50.
ln short, this means that if you had chickenpox as a child, the virus can still lie dormant in your body and ‘bloom’ when your immune system is weakened due to stress or medical treatments.
WHAT IS STANDARD MEDICAL TREATMENT?
Since there are currently very few prescriptions that address viruses, the standard medical treatment often consists of relieving symptoms with cortisone (Prednisone is one such product). and pain medication. Unfortunately, cortisone products suppress the immune response, which can worsen the progression of the infection.
HOW LONG DO SHINGLES LAST
Shingle is a virus; the same virus that causes chickenpox. The condition usually occur in people over the age of 60. A case of shingles starts as a tingling or pain in a localized area which is followed by a rash. A bout of shingles may last several weeks or even longer. If nerve damage occurs as a result of shingles – called postherpetic neuralgia – the pain can continue for much longer, even years. Most people only have shingles once. Only about 4% have more than one episode in a lifetime.
Side effects of the shingles vaccine are reported to be limited to redness or irritation at the site of the injection. No long-term side effects have been documented, however, the vaccine has only been approved for four years.
NEW SHINGLES VACCINE
The FDA approved a new shingles vaccine called Shingrix in 2017. In January 2018, the CDC officially recommended that adults 50 and over get the new vaccine to prevent this painful, blistering disease instead of the previous one, Zostavax. Shingrix is more than 90% effective at preventing the condition and a painful complication called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) in all age groups. Zostavax only lowers the odds of getting shingles by 51%, and of PHN by 67%. It’s even less effective in people ages 70 and older.